The Anglican Church of Canada and homosexuality
From 2007-APR to OCT: Ottawa & Montreal
approve same-sex blessing rituals.
House of Bishops meet.
Earlier activities at the 2007 General Synod were described in a prior essay
The 2007 General Synod asked the Anglican Church of Canada's Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee to "... engage the church in conversation on the broad issue of human sexuality in all of its complexity, using the lenses of scripture, reason, tradition and science." [Emphasis ours]
These are the four traditional criteria that the Anglican Communion has used in the past when faced with conflict over policy. However, it is a recipe for difficulty, if not disaster, because there is often disagreement over:
- Whether a specific passage in scripture was only valid for a particular era, like the first century CE, or whether it is still equally valid today.
- How to handle a situation where reason and personal experience leads in a different direction from that of scripture and tradition. Which takes precidence?
- Whether church tradition is a useful criteria to consider in a time of great cultural change; for example at the time that human slavery was abolished, when women were allowed to be ordained, or when loving, committed same-gender couples were considered eligible to marry.
- How to handle a situation where science points in a very different direction from church tradition and a literal interpretation of certain biblical passages; who wins out?
- How does one weigh scriptural demands for love, caring, and justice with passages that exclude, demean and even call for execution of women and sexual minorities.
2007-OCT-12/13: Diocese of Ottawa backs blessings of same-sex relationships:
The theme of the 2007 Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa was "Behold,
I Make All Things New Embracing the Future," from Revelation 21:5. They met
in Cornwall, ON and debated the diocese's policy towards same-sex relationships.
1 Some delegates:
"... brought up the fact that the Church welcomes gay people
individually, gives communion, baptizes their babies, and even offers a
pension fund that recognizes same sex couples. Yet it can't 'bless' them
even though it blesses boats, houses, even pets and other animals.
By a wide margin (177 to 97) the delegates passed a motion that would allow a
priest, with the prior approval of his parish, to approach the bishop for
permission to perform a blessing of a previously solemnized same-sex civil
marriage where at least one spouse is baptized. This would give the married
couple's parish, their priest, and their bishop separate veto power over the
blessing, so that all three would have to be in agreement. However, the actual
performance of same-sex marriages would still be banned. Only a blessing would be allowed.
Ottawa is the first synod in Canada to take this action since the
denomination decided in the summer of 2007 against giving a local option for
Bishop John Chapman has veto power over the synod and has not yet announced
his decision. He will talk to other bishops in Canada and abroad before
deciding. He said: "It's not helpful to walk alone. We're not afraid to walk
alone, but we don't want to walk alone."
BBC News commented:
"The vote, by a wide majority, sets back efforts to stem the
disintegration of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Even before the American
Anglican church controversially ordained an openly gay bishop in 2003, a
Canadian diocese, Vancouver, had sparked a crisis in the Communion by
allowing church blessings for homosexual couples. Since then the Communion
has begun painfully to split apart, as traditionalists, who believe active
homosexuality to be sinful, have tried to expel liberal churches. ... The
decision is not binding, but it is further evidence that the liberal North
American churches will not fundamentally change their approach to
homosexuality, even if that were necessary to keep the Communion intact."
The Anglican Network in Canada, a group of conservative Anglicans,
said they were deeply saddened by the vote of the Ottawa synod. They issued a
"Unfortunately, the synod has chosen to reject the pleas of the global
Anglican Communion and 'walk apart' from the vast majority of Anglicans
Religions often have great difficulty handling change. As social and cultural traditions change, and as science advances, more liberal factions within denominations push for changes. But since religions also place much importance on scripture and church history, the more conservative factions tend to resist change.
The worldwide Anglican Communion is in a state of crisis over sexual orientation. There is a great pressure for all of the Communion's provinces to behave uniformly. It is only with great difficulty that the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church, USA can progress and leave the rest of the Communion behind without generating a schism. Still, it is impossible for the entire Anglican Communition to progress together on this matter. Some dioceses and provinces have to take the first steps.
2007-OCT-18: Primate says due process was followed:
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, commented on
the resolution passed by the Ottawa synod that would allow priests to bless
existing civil marriages between same-sex couples if prior approval by the bishop is obtained. He said:
"I believe due process was followed with respect to the handling of this
resolution. The outcome of the resolution is a reflection of the mind of the
church local in this matter."
However, Bishop Chapman said that despite a "strong majority" and "a
clear directive," the approved motion was but "a recommendation and is
not binding on the diocese or the bishop."
2007-OCT-19: Montréal diocese backs same-sex blessings:
The synod of the diocese of Montréal voted in favor of a motion to bless
existing same-sex marriages. It was worded very similarly to the Ottawa
resolution. The clergy delegates to the synod voted 44 to 25 in favor; lay
delegates voted 59 to 32. Some of the delegates who opposed the resolution
required the synod to make separate tallies for clergy and laity. This forced
Bishop Clarke to indicate where he stood. He voted in favor of the motion.
Clarke praised what he called a "wonderful, intelligent debate" on both
sides of the debate. Canon Paul Jennings, director of pastoral studies at the
Diocesan Theological College in Montreal sponsored the resolution. The
Anglican Journal reported that Canon Jennings:
"... asked delegates to ask themselves what they would
want for their children if they were homosexual, and 'what do we believe in
all honesty that God wants for them?' He said the church's attitude could
make a difference for gays and lesbians between loneliness, denial, perhaps
bad marriage or promiscuity and alienation from the church, on the one hand,
and faith, holiness and strong partnerships on the other. However, he said
the resolution is only a request to the bishop and does not cover
[solemnizing] same-sex marriages a subject outside the power of a single
diocese under church law."
"Canon Jennings said he and the other sponsor of the
resolution, Dr. Douglass Dalton, a medical doctor who worships at St.
John the Evangelist Church in Montréal, urged delegates to vote in
accordance with their own consciences rather than being preoccupied with the
possible political consequences of the vote at various levels of the
Rev. Gregory McVeigh of St. Stephen’s Church in Westmount opposed the
motion. He said that one biblical theme that starts in Genesis and continues
throughout most of the Bible is that a couple consists of male and female. He
said: "However you interpret this scripture, you have to take it seriously."
He considers the six or so texts often cited as anti-gay
as being of less importance.
Rev. McVeigh appears to be overlooking seven of the eight marriage types described in the Bible, including nuclear families, levirate marriage, polygynous marriage (considting of one man and multiple women), and others. More details.
Rev. Dean Brady, a doctoral student at McGill University in Montréal said
that to support same-sex couples would be to reject the "lens" of scripture as a
way of interpreting the world in favor of a "lens" of modern social science.
Rev. Anthony Harvey of St. Michael and All Angels Church in the
Montréal suburb of Pierrefonds asked whether the resolution "... is really God¹s
will or is it bringing God down to our level of understanding and acceptance?"
2007-OCT-25/30: House of Bishops to meet:
The House of Bishops will discuss the implications of the Montreal and
Ottawa synod votes. They will also discuss an ambiguity left by the General
Synod. The latter had determined that same-sex blessings are "not in conflict"
with core church doctrine. But the bishops vetoed by a slim margin a decision by
the priests and laity to allow individual dioceses to bless same-sex
relationships if they wish.
Robin MacKay, chancellor (legal advisor) of the diocese of Ottawa, said that
the latter resolution neither affirmed or denied the local jurisdiction on the
matter. He said that the motion, "doesn’t deny the jurisdiction of bishops to
(allow) same-sex blessings; it’s just that General Synod failed to act in that
area." Some canon law experts have expressed the opinion that there is
nothing on the canons or constitution of the Anglican Church of Canada that
would prevent a diocese from acting on its own. 7
This topic continues in the next essay
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Synod 2007," Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, at: http://ottawa.anglican.ca/
- Jennifer Green, "Same-sex unions get blessing from Ottawa diocese. Weekend
Vote; Final decision on issue still rests with bishop," CanWest News Service,
2007-OCT-15, at: http://www.canada.com/
- Robert Pigott, "Canada diocese backs gay blessing," BBC News, 2007-OCT=15,
- Randall Palmer, "New Anglican row emerges with gay blessing request,"
Reuters, 2007-OCT-15, at: http://africa.reuters.com/
- Harvey Shepherd, "Montreal diocese becomes second to urge same-sex
blessings," Anglican Journal, 2007-OCT-20, at: http://www.anglicanjournal.com/
- Marites Sison, "Ottawa synod followed process, says primate," Anglican
Journal, 2007-OCT-18, at: http://www.anglicanjournal.com/
Copyright © 2007 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Initial posting: 2007-OCT
Latest update: 2012-OCT-17
Author: B.A. Robinson